Are You Afraid of Connecting First?

Are You Afraid of Connecting First?

I’ve had more than my fair share of ‘how to connect’ articles. Seriously. That said, connecting is crucial if you want your business to succeed – and the good news for YOU is that there are plenty of people out there who aren’t connecting at all. They think it’s strange because they don’t know you yet. Some are even scared to connect.

And that’s good for you. Check out today’s guest post from Marian (we recently connected) that shows you how you can take advantage of connecting when others won’t.

A few months ago, I was at an event organized by Digital Book World, an industry publication where I used to work. All attendees, of course, had their laptops out, and during a break the woman next to me said aloud, “Who is this woman and why is she asking to connect with me on LinkedIn?”

I wasn’t sure if she wanted an answer, but I (as you’ll see) have very strong opinions on this topic and asked, “Do you guys have any shared connections? Are you in a similar group?”

“Yeah,” she responded. “We’re both in a publishing group. I don’t want to connect with her though. I have no idea who she is!”

“Why not? Aren’t you looking for a job?”


“So what if this woman turns out to be really interesting? What if you get to know her, and she has some contacts for you or knows about an open position?”

“Oh. That’s a good point.”

Yeah, I know. While the mystery woman trying to connect with my neighbor should have included a message with her invite explaining why she wanted to connect, it’s not smart to limit your networking, especially when you’re looking for a job or clients.

I covered a similar event a few months after that and wanted to connect with the speakers beforehand. I used LinkedIn and encountered the same problem: resistance from people too paranoid to make the online networking leap.

For each person I invited, I added a personal message explaining who I was and why I wanted to connect with them. Every person accepted my invitation. Except one. He was a pretty powerful publishing guy, and I’m sure he gets tons of invites every day. I understand the hesitation for “high profile” people, but the simple act of connecting is important. I don’t care who you are.

His response to my invitation confused me. He wrote, “I’m sure we’ll get to know each other and when we have, we’ll do this link. I have a longstanding policy of not linking to people I don’t actually know.”

His message was perfectly nice, and I realize it’s important to have policies in place that make you comfortable. That said… seriously? He ran a company that could always use publicity. Why limit yourself? Why turn down a potential relationship that could be mutually beneficial? Who cares if you haven’t met that person? That’s what networking is all about.

Make an Effort

Social media can be overwhelming, frustrating and time consuming. But if you’ve made the effort to be on Twitter and LinkedIn, you need to start really using them. Building a profile isn’t some magic pill you can take and suddenly have followers, clients and book deals. There’s nothing worse than a stagnant page.

Actually, that’s a lie. There’s nothing worse than a person who’s afraid to use methods like “open networking”. I hate to be snippy or unsympathetic (sorry, that’s a lie too), but what’s the downside? You get some spam? Delete it. You end up not liking that person you follow/connect with/friend?

Unfollow/unconnect/unfriend them. That’s why it’s called networking – it takes some work.

If you’re wondering how you can network better or why your social media profiles aren’t bringing in leads, take a look at how you’re using them. Are your profiles private? Are you too picky about who you connect with? To that I say, get over it.

Who is your ideal client? Find them, connect with them. Does anyone you already know have connections to your ideal person or company? Get in touch with them and offer a favor in exchange for an introduction. It’s all about reaching out and making things happen.

3 Smart Steps to Generating More Leads

  • Accept all invitations. Before you start whining that someone’s going to murder you in your sleep, cut it out. If you’re worried about people emailing all the time, create a separate account. Don’t publicize your phone number and address. But remember that connecting with everyone is the most powerful step.
  • Go through your email contacts and add them as connections. We often forget that those we interact with daily – friends, clients, family – are our best referrals. This is an incredibly simple way to remind people what we do. Having friends as LinkedIn contacts – where they can see exactly what we do without shoving it down their throat – is priceless. And doing this is easy. On LinkedIn, just go to “Contacts” then “Add Connections.” If you’re with Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL, just enter your email information and LinkedIn does the work for you.
  • I do this about once a month, and every time I generate at least 20 new contacts, around two of whom will get in touch about a new project. Surprisingly, one of my greatest sources of new clients is my aunt.

  • Send personal messages. Answer questions in the Answers section of LinkedIn. Join groups. Engage people in conversation, and then send them a personal message offering your help. For example, if you’re a web designer, answer basic design questions and message people asking if they need any help. Even if they don’t, invite them to officially connect with you. Stay in touch. Who knows, they may not have work for you, but they might know someone who does. The more real relationships you make, the more potential for new clients.

Stop Limiting Yourself

The amazing thing about social networking is that you aren’t confined by geography. I’ve connected with people in Austria and California and New Zealand, even when based in New York. That’s what confused me about this publishing guy’s response to my LinkedIn request. He wouldn’t connect until we knew each other in real life, but the beauty of the internet is that you can have a rewarding relationship with someone and never meet.

You have to think of it this way: Would you go to an in-person networking event and refuse to give out your card because you didn’t know someone personally? Of course not. Treat social networking the same way. Many times a connection doesn’t work out. Many times you’re disappointed. Then throw the “card” away. But it’s not about many times, is it? It’s about those one or two people who become your clients, your friends, your partners and your greatest source of referrals.

So feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn – I’d love to get to know you better, whoever you are. Really.

Marian Schembari is a social media thug who helps authors sell boatloads of books. She also blogs over at MarianLibrarian where she mixes the personal and the professional, highlighting how freelancers and entrepreneurs can use social media to explode business, bring in floods of clients and generally have more fun. Check out her Personalized Twitter Strategy if you’re looking for BS-free and practical Twitter tactics.

Post by Agent X

Agent X is the name many mysterious and intriguing people take on when they guest post at our site. Their mission is to slip in like a thief in the night, leave you with entertaining, valuable and useful content, and slip away again - without getting caught.

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  1. Oh indeed, I remember the big huge discussion years ago on LinkedInLions and MyLinkingForum etc. about ‘open networking’ and how ‘offended’ some folks got regarding people who had the (gasp!) audacity to connect FIRST and introduce later.

    I think each person has their own ‘best way’ for online networking. Some don’t know how to filter out the noise, other have what others perceive to be an inflated sense of their own value (but the person in question merely sees that as another way of winnowing down the noise)….it’s a personal decision.

    That being said, I certainly agree that open networking is the best option in this day and age. You just never know when one bit of data shared 2 years ago could become the linchpin in your future business dealings.

    • I definitely think “to each his own.” If you’re really THAT uncomfortable, well, fine. The thing is, I get so tired of people who are actively seeking out clients or jobs who refuse to connect with “strangers.” Maybe it’s because I’ve had those little serendipitous projects lands in my lap because of a random connection. And all it took was a little click of that button that says, “Accept Invitation.” So easy! But for all the reasons you listed, many freelancers get their panties all in a bunch because of it and end up missing out big time!

  2. This morning the first email I got was saying “Fruit Baskets” wants to connect on Facebook.

    Fruit Baskets–?????? LOL!

    I have gone back and forth on this. First accepting all, then screening before I said yes, then accepting all, then screening…

    I’m not sure of the answer. I think Facebook’s categories are ridiculous. ie. I can belong to a person’s blog, read their books, interact all day long and the only categories on Facebook’s list are “business associate” (where you have to list the actual business, “other” where it tells you to know the person first, … and “friend”.

    I’ve just been using “friend” sometimes I add a note, sometimes not. I figure if “fruit baskets” can say I’m a friend, then hey… why not.

    • Well Mary, let me tell you something. I may preach to connect with anyone and everyone on LinkedIn, but Facebook is another story. It’s the one social media platform where I’ll refuse to connect with a person I haven’t met. Not that there’s anything incriminating on there, but it’s nice for me to have a place that’s all play and no work, you know?

      So I’d probably lett Old Fruit Basket to piss off 😉

  3. Connecting with people is one of my main methods of growing my website. I network every single day, I try to contact at least 10 new people each day to network with. You can’t be sacred of doing this, if you don’t network..then your business will not grow..

    I have done many interviews with the top bloggers online, and they have helped my site out tremendously.

    “TrafficColeman “Signing Off”

    • Wow, 10 new people is a lot! I applaud you, but I’m not sure I’d be able to keep that up and actually develop solid relationships. That said, I try to follow a few new people every day on Twitter and every week I connect with Twitter followers and email contacts on LinkedIn. That said, I do believe it’s all about the quality, not the quantity… But actively AVOIDING quantity? Well, that’s just stupid.


    Ok, now. It’s just us? The right people? Good.

    I often wonder if the folks so worried about connecting with someone online fear opening their snail mail from unknown senders, tremble when they walk into a cocktail party, or turn to jello when the phone rings. Makes me feel sorry for them.

    Most mature social media tools (like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like) have pretty good ways to check out a potential connection before “accepting” and very good ways to “block” someone who annoys you. I wish there was some easy way to to this in the Real World!

    If you really want to worry about something, limit how you give out your “real” email address. Have a little form on your web site for people to email you, or just give your Twitter or FB contact info there. Or, do as many of us, and have some “throwaway” email addresses that you can just abandon from time to time when they get too spammy.

    But for heaven’s sake — don’t hide under a rock! The water’s fine, and the proportion of great people to idiots is much better than the real world!

  5. That’s what I hear the most about social networking. “What if they aren’t who they say they are? What if they use the information to stalk me?” It’s no different than networking at an event where you don’t know anyone. You have no idea if they are who they say they are either.

    • What makes me grin about that “what if they stalk me?!” comment is that the people usually have 10 followers. Try having 6,000 followers and 8,000 readers. Then come back and talk to me about stalk stress.

      And even I’m small beans compared to Chris Brogan or Brian Clark!

  6. Good post Marian. I agree with your assertions about getting out and shaking a lot of electronic hands (and a few fleshy ones). I’m still a novice at this game; Facebook recently shut me down for two days for inviting too many people to be my friend/fan and I had to sit back and let the keyboard cool off for a bit. On the other end I joined LinkedIn because it was billed as the best “professional” networking tool, yet after filing out the extensive profile data and sending my first connection request Linked In warned: Important: Only invite people you know well and who know you. Their find-out-why page cites privacy issues for me and everyone in my network. That sat me back in my chair! How am I supposed to meet new people if I only invite people I already know? I’m still chewing on that one and the flavor is starting to come through. Please note that I HAVE asked you to Link up – I look forward to learning more about your work.

    • Well, that’s another tip. I’d never suggest connecting with tons and tons of people every day. That’s like being at the networking event I mentioned in the post and just going up to people, shaking their hands and walking away. What does that accomplish? I say add a few contacts every day, send them a personal message and continuing interacting with them in a meaningful way. Just don’t turn down invitations if their sent.

      And thanks for the connection offer! I obviously accepted 😉

      • Yes, like I said… I’m new at this. I figured a big “friends” list would increase the chances of people going to read my articles when I “share” them. That has not worked well. Probably for the same reason that I don’t go look at everything all those people post to Facebook. I don’t know them.

        I’ve backed away completely from that approach and am working on simply commenting on the posts of people I find something in common with.

        I’ll figure it out eventually, even if I do have brain rot.

  7. Well said.

    Being connected is especially important in today’s economy and will only increase in importance as the economy continues to evolve. You can’t count on your “job” any more. You can only count on your network.

    I think the point about having a policy is a good one. A clear understanding of how you want to group or segment your network increases the efficiency and improves the effectiveness of your networking efforts. My policy is to use Linkedin for business contacts and Facebook is where I connect with people with whom I have a personal relationship.

  8. Good article Marian. I’ve not tried linkedin yet, but now that I’ve yet again heard it promoted, and this time with sensible reasoning, I’ll sign up. Thanks 🙂

  9. Hi Marian,

    Congrats on writing this great article!

    Stop limiting yourself really hits home. Many of us limit ourselves in all sorts of ways – from our thinking to our actions to our risk-taking.

    Leap, I say! Try making the connection, as you say, that choice is not cast in stone. I agree with the customized linked-in message. It feels much warmer to get a friendly note than the default one. The default life doesn’t tap into our greatness.

    Thanks! Giulietta

  10. Good post. I think it’s essential to reach out and connect with other professionals online as much as you can, without spamming. What other way will you be able to expand your business and be able to help each other out.

    Bret Juliano’s last blog: You Have a Website… So, Now What?

  11. I have learned to love networking. It hasn’t always been easy. Some people are just grimy when they network and it would leave me feeling like it was a big waste of time. With the creation of FB, Twitter and other online networks, networking has been alot less painful and my circle has increased. Some people need to take a network 101 class and realize that networking is a 2 way street. Building the relationship is the key and then you can reap benefits. My biggest pet peeve with online networking is when someone requests to connect and they don’t introduce themselves or say why they want to connect. Would they do this if I met them in person? To me, it’s the equivalent of shoving your card in my face and then walking away. I love that I have the power to “unfriend” or “unfollow” anyone that I don’t have a connection with. Thanks for the post…Happy Networking!

  12. Great post, Marian. I had an awkward moment recently when I got a message from someone who I know from an online forum and Twitter, who said she wouldn’t add me on Linked In because she doesn’t know me, and therefore couldn’t vouch for my work. (?)

    Honestly? I was offended. I bet she’d have been the first to connect with me if she thought I was more “important” (if I was features ed at a major magazine, would she have refused to add me on the grounds we’d never met? I don’t think so.)

    But now I think she just doesn’t understand online networking — how powerful it can be, how useful, and how Linked In isn’t just about recommending people you’ve worked with. She didn’t mean any harm, she just didn’t get it.

    Of course, when I do get that high-flying job and she wants to join my network, I reserve the right to send a snotty refusal of my own… 😉 (Petty, schmetty.)

    • That’s just too freaking weird. I’ve heard the argument that you shouldn’t connect with people you don’t know because you “can’t vouch for their work,” but COME ON. How many people’s work CAN you vouch for? Vouching-for-work comes into play when giving recommendations, not linking up to someone online. And trust me, no one is going to go through your contacts, pick out someone who looks un-vouchable and then judge you based on that. When I was a kid and would worry what the popular kids thought of me, my mom bluntly said, “People aren’t thinking of your nearly as much as you think about them thinking of you.”

      And I’m totally petty when it comes to that stuff! No way I’m connecting to that publishing guy when he wants my help!

  13. Here’s a bit of my experience:

    On Twitter, I have no issues following people I don’t know well or following back people that I haven’t ‘met’ before. To me, it’s a water cooler and a place to hang out, so I follow and follow back those I find might be of interest or value to me. There are some cool people out there – it’d be a shame not to meet them!

    On LinkedIn and Facebook, things are a little different. I get a lot of requests to connect or friend people that I’ve never heard of, don’t know and have no information on… and to me, those two areas have different mental boundaries than Twitter.

    Facebook is for “friends” – so I like to be friends before I add someone in.

    LinkedIn is for professional connections – so if I have no idea who this stranger is, how can the person be a professional connection for me?

    A last note: quick intros go a long way. If you’re going to friend or follow me… tell me who the hell you are! “Hi James, I’m a longtime reader… Hi James, you worked on a project for a client we share in comment…” Give me something to help me identify you.

    Else I can’t, and connecting becomes tough.

    • I definitely understand what you’re saying as I am similar… in way. I refuse to connect with anyone who’s not my friend on Facebook seeing as I’m from a generation where Facebook consisted of Spring Break photos and my cell phone number. The only people who were members were college students. But even when they opened FB up to the world I still wasn’t comfortable “friending” people I wasn’t actually friends with. But FB is also a not a professional space for me. LinkedIn and Twitter are. So while people may be stupid about not introducing themselves or being vague about who they are, it’s stupid of me to limit myself. I honestly can’t think of one reason to ignore a LinkedIn request unless it looks obviously spammy.

      My question for you is, if you are hesitant about connecting with someone on LinkedIn, why advertise it in your sidebar?

  14. I used to be freaked out James. However after I read Jade Cravels book on Networking, my perspectives changed. Good article, enjoyed reading.

  15. Marian, thanks for a highly nutritive post. For a while, I was pretty wary on the Net, even—gasp!—fully reading privacy policies for sites, and thinking that there were snares and pitfalls everywhere. Not to say that there aren’t snares, but in the last few years, I’ve loosened considerably, seeing that the benefits of connection bubble over in the positive column. Spam be damned, but ideas (and human links) are worth any unsavory underbelly. Or Viagra ad.

    By the way, is there a standard outfit for a “social media thug”?

  16. Great article. Fear is never good. Fear of strangers, fear of ourselves – the fear of spreading good ideas and seeing them to volition is even worse. Personally, I think we all could only benefit from sharing good ideas and finding the correct company and outlet for them that we make the most use of our very short stay here. Spread the word! And hurry – don’t worry…


  17. I just sent you an invitation on Linkedin. 🙂
    Although, they don’t have “new connection” or something appropriate as option. It’s little weird I have to chose “friend” for someone I still don’t know (I’m talking about “How do you know Marian”).

    • Excellent 🙂

      I always put in “other” if I don’t know the person first. If they’re a blog reader or Twitter follower I put in “friend.” Unfortunately, you need the person’s email address for both options so if the email address isn’t readily available I see if we have groups in common. Some people will put “colleague” but I’m not the biggest fan of that tactic.

  18. Yanno, I’d been thinking about this just today. I’ve been receiving a few random requests from people overseas. I was kind of reluctant…but this has convinced me, if for no other purpose than they might one day somehow help me find work abroad (and travelling the world is my biggest dream!)


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